“What do I know about diamonds? Don’t they come from Antwerp?”: Hidden gems guide to Antwerp
If you don’t already know, Antwerp is said to be the diamond capital of the world. So, whether you already own some of your own stones, or you’re thinking about making a special purchase such as a diamond ring for your loved one, chances are it was part of the 84% of the world’s diamond that passed through the Belgian city of Antwerp first. But why there? Here’s a brief, hidden gems guide to Antwerp.
The City of Diamonds
Antwerp has long been known as the City of Diamonds, ever since it first started stone trading as far back as the year 1450. Most rough diamonds would arrive in the city from the likes of India, where skilled workers would then cut them into sellable gemstones. The trade then boomed once diamonds were discovered in South Africa in 1869, meaning Antwerp became – and still is – one of the largest trading centers of diamonds in the world.
Antwerp’s Diamond District
The city’s huge Diamond District (or Diamond Quarter) can be found just across from the magnificent Antwerpen-Centraal, otherwise known as Antwerp Central Station. Spreading out across over two kilometers of the city, the area is home to over 1,800 stores selling the finest, locally-cut diamonds and jewellery.
If you’re getting the tram to the district, the nearest station is aptly called ‘Diamant’, which translates as ‘diamond’ in Flemish. Nearby, you’ll find the main trading hall at 62 Pelikaanstraat, which helps regulate the import and export of the precious stone. Not surprisingly, many of the trading halls and offices won’t just let any tourists walk in off the streets, so security can be pretty tight. Instead, you can discover all there is to know about Antwerp’s diamond history at the district’s Museum aan de Stroom.
See For Yourself
In the stores throughout the Diamond District, you’ll see manufacturers, buyers and traders working alongside Flemish, Indian and Jewish Orthodox diamond dealers. There’s still a handful of exceptionally skilled cutters who work in the city and, if you head to DiamondLand on De Keyserlei street, you can take a guided tour of the business, watching cutters, setters and goldsmiths at work, before taking a look at the finished product in the shop.
Don’t Be Fooled
With so many tourists and visitors heading to Antwerp in search of great deals on diamonds, you’re bound to come across your fair share of scams too, so there are certain things to look out for before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Take a look around plenty of shops before deciding on the design that you want. Compare prices and be aware that signs shouting ‘special discounts’ can often still be selling the gems at the original price, so you’re getting no discount at all.
Check the shops at home so you know roughly what you should be paying when you get to Antwerp. Do your buyer research, have your wits about you and you’ll no doubt come away with a stunning piece of jewellery to treasure for years to come.
So, now you know a little more about where the diamonds on your fingers came from. Maybe now you’ll be planning your own trip to Antwerp to find yourself a locally-made diamond deal.